IFJ alarmed at escalating intimidation of journalists by government forces

September 19, 2005

IFJ alarmed at escalating intimidation of journalists by government forces

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the global organisation representing more than 500,000 journalists in over 110 countries, is alarmed by the arrest of more than 80 journalists at a protest in Kathmandu and the exodus of journalists from Dailekh district, fearing for their lives.

“Press freedom and respect for the rights of journalists in Nepal are being shot to pieces by a barrage of abuses from government security forces,” said IFJ President Christopher Warren.

“The IFJ is extremely concerned that for the first time, journalists have decided to leave their district en-masse because they fear for their lives,” said the IFJ President.

“It is a huge blow to democracy and press freedom for journalists to feel they have no choice but to leave because of threats from the forces of their own government,” said Warren.

Mass exodus of journalists from Dailekh district
On September 16, seventeen journalists in the Dailekh district in mid western Nepal decided to leave after holding an emergency meeting about growing insecurity in the region caused by government security forces.

The journalists decided to go to Kathmandu and remaining journalists have appealed to human rights workers and outside media persons to help them leave. The Federation of Nepalese Journalists’ (FNJ) has also sent a high-level mission to Dailekh in response to the situation.

Adding to the concerns of journalists in Dailekh, on September 18, Kantipur Daily correspondent Harihar Singh Rathaur was detained at the District Administration Office (DAO) and interrogated by security officials who alleged that Rathaur has been involved with Maoists. The journalist was told not to leave Dailekh district until the charge was cleared.

Rathaur has been living under continual harassment by authorities for his independent reports on the atrocities committed by both the security forces and Maoist forces.

Eight local journalists went to the DAO to show their support for Rathaur but were told by authorities to leave the district immediately.

Journalists Yagraj Thapa, Kamal Neupane, Bhupedra Khaka, Puskar Thapa, Janak Neupane, Umesh Kumar KC and Sita Ram Jaisy are among those who left the district today with human rights activists.

More than 80 journalists arrested in Kathmandu
Meanwhile, on September 16, more than 80 journalists were arrested at a press freedom rally organised by the Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNJ), in Ratna Park, Kathmandu.

Before the rally had a chance to begin, police arrested FNJ's president, Bishnu Nisthuri, vice-presidents, Shiva Gaunle and DR Panta, general secretary, Mahendra Bista, treasurer, Hemanta Kafle and members Purna Basnet, Ramesh Bista, Surya Thapa, Bishnu Chhimeki and Ramji Dahal

Another 70 media workers were also arrested and a dozen of journalists were beaten by police during the arrest. The journalists were freed later that evening after being held in the Mahendra Police Club for more than four hours.

Female journalist threatened by army major
In another incident on September 15, RNA major, Uttam Khadka, telephoned female journalist Saraswoti Karki at home and threatened to break her legs.

The threat came after the Jhapa-based correspondent published a report in the Kantipur Daily about the indiscriminate beating of 12 locals by RNA soldiers commanded by Major Khadka.

“The actions of the police and the Royal Nepalese Army are completely unacceptable. Authorities must not use their power to threaten and intimidate journalists because they do not like what they report,” said IFJ President Christopher Warren.

“The government must reign in its security forces and take steps to protect freedom of speech and journalists’ rights if it wants to retain any credibility,” said the IFJ President.

Journalist abducted by Maoists
On September 13, associate editor of Nawajagriti Weekly, Rajkumar Raut, was taken from his home by Maoist forces after they kept him under house arrest for 25 days.

Raut was put under ten days of house arrest by Maoist forces after they accused him of conspiring against the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist). The order was extended to a further 15 days when Raut spoke to visiting journalists.

The whereabouts and wellbeing of Raut are unknown.

Since the royal coup on February 1, journalists’ rights to report freely, safely and independence have been harshly suppressed by the Nepalese government.

Journalists have been caught in the crossfire between government authorities and Maoist forces, that abuse their power in an attempt to manipulate the media.

Threats, arrests, violence, torture, abductions and intimidation are a daily occurrence for Nepalese journalists.

The IFJ calls for an end to the abuse of journalists’ rights and an immediate return to democracy in Nepal.

For more information about the Nepal crisis visit www.ifj-asia.org/page/nepalcrisis.html

For further information contact Christopher Warren on +61 (0) 411 757 668.

The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries